WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. — In a small enclave of independent supermarkets, one is making a difference.
In the southern part of Whidbey Island, about 35 miles north of Seattle, is The Goose Community Grocer, which is bringing the community feel back to this area.
Opened last summer, the goal of this 20,000-square-foot store is to involve local farmers and artisans and give back to local people.
“We have worked really hard to promote local,” said Tyler Myers, president of The Myers Group, Seattle, which operates the grocery store. “Our original mission was to support low-income housing for South Whidbey, but I think it will be much broader than that. I would suspect it will touch everything from the animal shelter to the food bank.
The Myers Group, which operates four IGAs in Washington, runs The Goose, but Goosefoot Organization, a non-profit community developer, owns the store.
“[Goosefoot is] trying to give 100% of their profits back to the community and make it a better place to live,” pointed out Myers.
None of The Myers Group's other stores bears any resemblance to The Goose. It's obvious as soon as you enter the store that something is different. Shoppers walk into the Aisle of Honking Values. “That's the big statement piece,” said Debbie Torget, Goosefoot's executive director. “It's what people wanted — the value.”
Next up is the produce section with an abundance of local products. Other local items appear throughout the store with items such as Mr. Mobley's Sauces and products from the Whidbey Island Soap Company.
In March, the store started working with the “Whidbey Grown” brand, which has been developed by the Northwest Agricultural Business Center, a not-for-profit beef co-op. The beef is hormone-free and raised on local pastures. Other products are being developed by the center, and Torget said The Goose “will be happy to be a showcase for them.”
Soon, the store will highlight all local products with information about the farmer or artisan.
As well as putting an emphasis on local products, The Goose is also very value-driven, and low prices make it popular with South Whidbey Islanders. “Our prices are meant to be competitive; we didn't want to be something people have to guess at,” said Torget.
Running a grocery store is no piece of cake and that's why the Goosefoot Organization chose The Myers Group. But that doesn't mean it's all been plain sailing for the management company.
“The biggest challenge is getting a lot of local vendors and producers educated on how you go to market in a grocery store,” said Myers. “We have to make sure everything we take into The Goose is high quality and has been raised and packaged properly. So there's a lot of education and that's probably the biggest challenge we've had.”
What's not been so hard has been attracting shoppers. They understand what The Goose is trying to do, said Myers. “And I would think that over time that will become more apparent. I think that in five or 10 years, as they see the good it's done for the community, people will realize this is not just another grocery store. If you shop at The Goose, the profits are going to come back to your community.”
And these good works for the community will come from both Goosefoot and The Myers Group. From the former, there will be checks written to benefit local needy groups, while as managers of the store, the Myers Group will run regular promotions. Its inaugural event was a five-minute shopping spree for the local food bank manager; and on April 24, a promotion for the local animal shelter will encourage shoppers to either donate money or pet products.